Some of our favorite bloggers have already weighed in on Shelby Steele's Appetite for Destruction op-ed in the Wall St. Journal. In brief: Steele blames the quagmire in Iraq on "white guilt"; if we had only incinerated the place and the people to begin with, we wouldn't have to be enduring an insurgency from a weaker and much less worthy foe. Steele's essay is rife with ignorance, recklessness, inhumanity and hypocrisy.
There are two main points I draw from this. One, there is a class among the warmongers, a class which may in fact comprise the whole of it, that is finding the Iraq war bitterly disappointing. And this is not just because the U.S. is perceived to be "losing" in Iraq. The root of the real disappointment this class feels is that after the initial Shock and Awe, Operation Iraqi Freedom has turned into, well, just so much nation-building. The taking of Baghdad, the toppling of Saddam's statue, Bush's aircraft landing, and Saddam's eventual capture, were fine for starters. But since then, it's mainly been about turning over sovereignty, holding elections, and trying to hammer out a constitution. And all of this has been rather unexciting. Sure, some of this class vicariously held up the "purple fingers" of Iraqi voters as an indicator of U.S. "success" but even with this, one could sense that their heart really wasn't in it. Giving people the vote has never been a conservative ambition. They may have bought into the whole "liberation" charade before the war started, to try to give the effort some moral legitimacy. But these conservatives mainly wanted to smash something, to intimidate the world by conquering Iraq. Destroy and dominate. Now that that isn't happening, many among the Home Field Generals are letting their true malice show. Screw the liberation. Why can't we just torch the place? Ah, White Guilt. We'd win if it wasn't for White Guilt weighing us down. As Glenn Greenwald and Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog have noted, it's at least refreshing to hear some of these guys let their real motivations show.
Second, conservative whining about the quagmire in Iraq and blaming it on someone else, anything else besides themselves and this administration is ridiculously ignorant or just plain hypocritical. The quagmire in Iraq stems from the fact that wars, especially modern wars against hostile populations and unconventional foes, can't be fought with a toothpick and a cellphone. They require large numbers of "boots on the ground" and deep levels of economic and professional sacrifice on the part of the warring state's population--neither of which have the warmongers been willing to supply or endure. If they want war, they have to be willing to contribute their all to it. The administration and its apologists wanted war, dreadful, violent, and intimidating war, on the quick and cheap. And it can't be done. Hence, the quagmire.
The warmongers are addicts. And the hit they experienced from invading Iraq has worn off. Now they either want to bomb Iran or reconquer Iraq. But like most addicts, they're both suffering from the inevitable declining marginal utility of each addictive hit while failing to recognize their well of resources is dry.